Talking leadership

Tomorrow I am going to the doctor. What’s so unusual about that is that I am actually going

I am extremely disappointed (devastated might be a better word) that I am not free to attend the Australian Farm Institute’s launch of their research report tomorrow in Canberra

Opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Australian farmers advocacy groups – a comparative approach’

Are advocacy groups necessary? (the rationale for collective advocacy); Getting inspired: International and national case studies of advocacy groups; What do Australian farmers really think of agricultural advocacy groups?;

Workshop: Developing a preferred model for agricultural advocacy in Australia

So what’s all this got to do with going to the doctor? A lot actually

There has been a lot of talk about leadership (or lack of) in agriculture for as long as I can remember.

Whether leaders are born or made?

Is the advocacy model flawed?

The Smartest person in the room

Lots and lots of talk and I haven’t seen much change over the last 20 years. So when I was asked last year to be on the NSW Farmers Dairy Committee I was very reticent. I was reticent because I don’t necessarily believe leaders are born and I didn’t feel I had the required skills sets

I was eventually convinced that it wouldn’t involve any more time and that it might help fast track some of the initiatives that I was trying to achieve.

I also felt a bit guilty and that I had a responsibility to give it a go and maybe, just maybe with the right team around me (all those people who had the skill sets I didn’t) I could really help make a difference.

More time. You are joking. 24/7 just took on a whole new meaning.

Face to face meetings are twice a year. The first meeting is taken up with identifying the priorities of your industry, your committee members’ area of expertise and where each person can be most effective and then developing the action plan.

Then putting it all into action seriously becomes 365 days plus

This is because you find most of the priority issues have been around for a long time and if your committee is going to be the one to get action you have to do a lot of backgrounding to understand the politics, the barriers, the personalities (and trust me its normally the personalities) as to why your committee may just have what it takes to surmount what all the committees before you couldn’t

State level representation often means federal representation and that means you are dealing with people all over the country and Australia is a big place. So that of course means teleconferences. Endless teleconferences. Urgent teleconferences. Workshops, summits, industry briefings, industry breakfasts, briefing notes and yes cancelled doctor’s appointments.

So I have found in the majority of cases there are lot of well-meaning people who put their hands up to take on these roles who just like me are floundering around in the dark, frustrated they are putting in all this time getting no-where and putting the rest of their life on hold

Leaders may be born, so might doctors but they don’t give you a license to operate until you have knowledge and the skill sets and the mentors and the support networks in place so you can be the very best doctor you can be physically and emotionally

The world is complex, agriculture is complex and leadership requires many things and we have to do a lot more than talk about it

As always no matter how good the concept it’s the people who make it work

Lets not forget the world is run by those who turn up. How do we make sure the right people are in the room. The people with all the skills sets required to make an effective team

For me we don’t have near enough people talking about how we can best help and support our people who put their hands up.

I look forward to reading the Australian Farm Institute’s report. I look forward to talking to some of the people I know who are going

Mick Keogh and his team are definitely world class leaders in their space. Let’s hope we take on board the learnings and the insights and so we can get on with the doing

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

2 thoughts on “Talking leadership”

  1. Lynne,

    Fascinating article. I was sort of amused at the stuff you didn’t say.

    I went to this AFI meeting in Sydney about rural advocacy groups. Fascinating. It was more about ‘how do we protect the existing structures?’ rather than ‘what do we need for more effective advocacy?’.

    One of the answers to that question was clearly stated but not absorbed by the meeting. ‘Each effective rural advocacy group around the world has a secondary source of income.’ It is a statement that has become a guiding light for us.



    1. Hi Mike

      Firstly to your point about the advocacy model I agree any group that relies on voluntary membership fees alone as its source of income is vulnerable

      Secondly yes indeed there is a great deal I haven’t said however what I have said I believe is the root of the problem – the capacity of the team to make it work

      Currently the model is perceived to be broken and whilst it is being decided if there is a valid ROI in fixing it or it should be thrown out and a new (self funding) framework put in its place well meaning people like me put their hands up to play in the policy space because at this point in time those who may have the skills sets see no value for various reasons in 24/7 advocacy for others who too often sit in the stands and jeer

      I know I can be a very valuable team member and a strong advocate in my areas of expertise. At a policy level however I totally flounder as I have no backgrounding nor the time to invest in the current model of learning on the fly from a mostly invisible source I have yet to find

      You on the other hand come to the dairy industry as an acknowledged and highly respected leader from the cotton industry where you spent your life knee deep in advocacy, directing policy and R&D and surrounding yourself with people you could learn from etc. An industry I have personally witnessed has the most incredible cheerleading squad I have ever seen (though there are people in Rice that tell me if I had the opportunity to work with the Australian Rice Industry I would find they may just rival cotton in this space)

      Every team needs a quadrant of leadership

      The NSW dairy industry should consider itself very lucky you have been selected to be its head honcho. You are the one setting the vision, inspiring the direction and empowering everybody to be the best they can be. You also recognize your own limitations and do your very best to surround yourself with a team that balances your strengths and weaknesses.

      Agriculture doesn’t in the main invest in its leaders or its team members emotionally and physically and seek out funds up to make that happen. I intend to change that

      A conversation for another day. Lunch perhaps with a good OZ white?


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